Cayetano tells Aquino: Answer my questions instead of 'trivializing' sea dispute issue

Audrey Morallo - Philstar.com
Cayetano tells Aquino: Answer my questions instead of 'trivializing' sea dispute issue
Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano on Monday urged former President Benigno Aquino III to answer his questions on the South China Sea dispute instead of trivializing the issue.
AFP / Fabrice Coffrini, File | PIA / Released, File

MANILA, Philippines — The word war between former President Benigno Aquino III and Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano continues to rage after the latter urged the former leader to answer his questions about the previous government's approach to the South China Sea dispute.

In his second open letter to Aquino, Cayetano accused Aquino of failing to provide information on the events and his decisions that led to the "extremely complex" situation in the West Philippine Sea.

The West Philippine Sea is the part of the South China Sea claimed by the Philippines as part of its exclusive economic zone.

Cayetano said Aquino should answer the questions he posed on Friday instead of "trivializing the issue."

"Merely unleashing your attack dog, Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, or asking the public to just Google are not helping the situation for our people and our government," Cayetano said in his open letter.

Responding last week to the former leader's call for more transparency, Cayetano said that Manila lost control over the Scarborough Shoal under Aquino.

The foreign affairs secretary also posed several questions to the former leader such as about the role of Trillanes in backchannel talks and details of Aquino's meeting with the US and its commitment on the disputed waters.

Cayetano also wanted Aquino to propose alternatives to the current policy track of the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte, who has since pursued closer ties to Beijing.

Hours later, Aquino responded and said that Cayetano's questions could be answered by a quick online search.

He added that Cayetano also had access to files and people who could shed light on the issue.

The former Philippine leader said answering Cayetano's questions would expose the country's "playbook and intelligence" to China, which could make the current government's life more difficult.

Cayetano, in his latest open letter, said that searching for the answers to his questions online yielded more questions than answers.

"It revealed far more serious problems that emanated from an unclear chain of command, serious miscalculations, and the absence of an end game for the country," Cayetano said.

The foreign secretary asked Aquino to explain the need for a backroom negotiator and if the efforts of former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario were not enough.

He also urged Aquino to disclose his instructions to Trillanes and the reports he had on his trips to China.

"Is it true, as Senator Trillanes claims, that you considered his secret mission in back-channeling, a success? Did you consider surrendering Scarborough Shoal a success?" Cayetano asked.

The country's top diplomat also urged Aquino to be transparent about the agreement for the simultaneous withdrawal of Philippine and Chinese vessels in the Scarborough Shoal.

Cayetano inquired: "Senator Trillanes reportedly told you that Secretary del Rosario had been giving you false information about Chinese actions. What were these supposedly false information? Were these information indeed proven to be false?"

He also asked about the contents of the message he waited from Trillanes during the crucial moments of the standoff between Manila and Beijing.

He also reiterated the need for Aquino to disclose Washington's commitment to helping Manila in the sea dispute and the reason why he failed to order Philippine ships to return to the Scarborough Shoal when China reneged on its commitment.

"This is not about our present playbook but yours. Your playbook is something already known to the Chinese Government and yet you refuse to share this and other facts with our people who knew nothing about it," the foreign chief said.

"Our current playbook is what we have to guard closely, not yours. Yet you and your allies continue to undermine the present approach that is called for in our current playbook. Do you or don’t you want to protect our country’s interests?" he added.

Cayetano also called Trillanes as Aquino's attack dog after the senator called him a political snake on Sunday.

"Senator Trillanes is again trying to confuse our people. I was neither your close ally nor your enemy. I was the Minority Leader, not a member of the majority at the height of the controversy on the West Philippine Sea," he said.

The Philippines and China, as well as a handful of neighboring nations, are currently locked in a dispute in the South China Sea, which is believed to hold vast reserves of natural resources and oil.

The Philippines won in the arbitral case it filed under Aquino, and the decision invalidated much of China's claim to the waters.




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